(If you’re interested in this topic and if you able to, please consider donating to charities which support survivors of torture, such as Freedom from Torture).

The use of music in torture and other forms of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment has been a key aspect of my work on music and violence for several years. I am particularly interested in exploring the longer history of the connections between music and torture, and in drawing attention to the continued, widespread and varied use of music in torture. Ultimately, this research aims to deepen our understanding of torture and what it does to people, and thus to strengthen safeguards against torture in the future.

I have spoken about music and torture at several conferences and public events, including (for those who speak German) at this event hosted in 2014 by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Human Rights in Vienna. I frequently give interviews on this topic for print and broadcast media, including this contribution to BBC Radio 3’s Music Matters. My research also inspired the show Music is Torture written by Louise Quinn, which premieres in Scotland in May 2017.    

To date I have published the following articles specifically on music in torture and punishment:


  1. “Unfinished: On Music and Torture”, Van: A Online Classical Music Magazine, 26 May 2016

  2. Die zersungene Seele: Musik als Instrument der Folter”, co-authored with Anna Papaeti & Stephanie Leder), in Gunter Kreutz & Günther Bernatzky (eds.), Musik und Medizin: Chancen für Therapie, Prävention und Bildung (Berlin: Springer, 2015), pp. 419-435.

  3. “Pathways to music torture”, in Transpositions: Musique et sciences sociales 4 (2014), special issue Music and armed conflict since 1945.

  4. “The illogical logic of music torture”

in Torture: Journal of Torture Rehabilitation and Prevention of Torture 23/2 (2013), thematic issue Music in Detention, (which I guest-edited along with Anna Papaeti), pp. 4-13

  1. “Rein, schön, fürchtbar: Musik als Folter”, in  Gerhard Paul & Ralph Schock (eds.), Der Sound des Jahrhunderts: Ein akustisches Porträt des 20. und beginnenden 21. Jahrhunderts (Bonn: Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung, 2013), 576-581.

  2. “Music and punishment in the British Army in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries”, in the world of music (new series) 2/1 (June 2013), thematic issue Music and Torture | Music and Punishment (which I guest-edited along with Anna Papaeti), pp. 9-30

I also maintain a site with some links to research and other resources on music torture (Article 5 Project) and a Twitter account on the topic, @musictorture

P.S. If you think that torture might be justified in some cases, this is for you.